There are many tasks to consider when organising a fundraising event. It isn’t easy, and that is why event planning businesses make a living out of doing this for you. Let’s face it though, most volunteer led organisations don’t have the means to pay a professional and due to their costly nature, your profit can be greatly impacted.
So we go it alone!
This article will guide you through one of the most critical components when organising an event and that is finding the perfect venue.
Let’s start with the most pressing question……. How much is it going to cost?
This is particularly important for fundraising events, as it is a cost that directly impacts the profitability of the event.
There are four main options with the type of venue that can be hired.
Option 1: Serviced venue / Cost per person
The venue charges a set amount per person based on their food and beverage packages. This should include decorations, set-up and service in the cost.
Example: Function Centres
- The costs is incorporated into the ticket price
- You should receive a professionally managed food and beverage service with little involvement required on your part
- Good if you’re planning a classier type of event
- Higher upfront cost
- Set seating plans are usually required
- You may be paying for services that you don’t require
Option 2: Space only / fixed cost for space
The venue charges a set fee to hire a space.
Example: Surf club
- Very cost effective if you have volunteers available to run the event
- Great for casual events such as Trivia or Poker nights
- You may be able to run the bar which can be more lucrative
- More responsibility falls on the person or group hiring it
- Regulatory compliance applies when running your own bar (RSA etc)
- Potential security costs
Option 3: Public space / No cost
A great option to save on costs but comes with limitations.
Example: Park or oval
- Greater fundraising potential
- Could be an outdoors event to add uniqueness
- Catering by BBQ may be an option
- Will need to decorate and set-up yourself
- May need permission, usually from a local Council
- You will be responsible for cleaning and packed up
Option 4: Own facilities / No cost
No doubt the highest potential for lucrative returns. If you’re one of the the lucky organisations to have your own facilities then hats off to you.
Examples: School Hall / Oval or Club House facilities
- Best potential for highest profit out of the four options.
- Ability to run your own bar
- Do not need any permissions
- Needs to be cleaned and packed up
- Will require greater planning and many volunteers
- May require catering to be organised
This article will primarily focus on Option 1: Serviced venues / Cost per person, however much of the advice shared is useful for all venue options.
Negotiating the costs
Costs can vary greatly, especially if opting for dates during peak periods such as holidays, Saturday nights or leading into Xmas. It’s a good idea to have some flexible dates prepared before entering onto negotiations.
The type of meal package you choose will have the greatest bearing on cost. Ask yourself, do you really need that five-course degustation menu or is there a cheaper option that’s suitable?
Booking ahead of time will not only give you a greater opportunity to negotiate, it also gives you ample time to advertise your fundraising event.
Equipment provided by the venue such as a stage, lectern, projector or screen may incur additional costs. This may even include fancier decorations, chair coverings and table centrepieces. Be vigilant in understanding what is included in the cost.
Top Tip: Some venues have special rates for not-for-profit groups. Be sure to ask!
Most venues will provide a contract that needs to be adhered to. Please read the contract carefully to avoid any unwanted surprises.
Apart from ensuring the date and agreed fees are correct, you should also confirm the following:
- What is the policy for cancellations? Will you lose part or all of your deposit?
- What are the implications if you need to postpone your event? Is there a fee?
- What happens if fewer guests than you booked for attend?
- What time do the premises need to be vacated by?
- Are there any noise restrictions?
The space needs to fit the occasion. The local bowling club may be great for your trivia night but misses the mark for that fancy formal occasion.
Has the room got ample space and is the shape suitable? Be sure there are no obstructed views, this is a sure-fire way for a table to lose interest and talk over that important speech.
Ideally, you’d like the space to compliment the number of guests you’ll be accommodating. If the rooms is too big it can lack atmosphere. If it’s too small, your guests could feel crammed and uncomfortable.
Access to the premises is often overlooked until it’s too late.
Setting up a fundraising event will require time. Even if you’re doing the bare minimum, you’d most likely need to have access to the venue at least an hour beforehand. Check how long before the event you and your volunteers can gain entry. You will need this especially if you’re hosting an event that will have many items showcased, like an auction.
Don’t take for granted that this will be available to you, make sure to ask when booking.
Air conditioning / heating
It’s always difficult to please everyone with a suitable temperature. If you’ve ever worked in an office, you may have encountered complaints that it’s too hot or others are finding it too cold.
I like to always ask up front, if there will be any issues adjusting the temperature if required.
Your aim is to avoid guests vigorously fanning themselves with their napkins or on the opposite spectrum wearing their scarves at the dinner table.
You can tell a lot about a venue by how they keep their restrooms. It never hurts to make a quick visit just for peace of mind.
You can be guaranteed the main conversation will be about the unclean restrooms, if they’re not up to standard.
At a minimum, make sure your restrooms are exclusive to your event, clean and large enough.
We all know smoking is bad for you, but if an adult chooses to smoke, they needn’t be treated like a leper.
Is there a comfortable smoking area for the smokers in attendance? Confirm there’s a dedicated space that’s protected from the weather.
Sound / Acoustics
Ever been in a room where you could hardly hear the person sitting across from you? This is due to poor acoustics, the clinging and clanging from dinner plates can become deafening and the constant echoing can really grate at people.
Consider the type of event you’re having:
- The acoustics may be forgiven, if you’re planning a causal party like atmosphere.
- If you’re hosting a formal sit-down event, you’ll be grateful you planned ahead especially when the speeches roll around.
Some simple ways to check, how much sound is bouncing off the walls and floors:
- Is there noticeable echoing when clapping?
- Can you clearly hear others speaking or their footsteps from across the room?
- Open and exposed ceilings may look trendy but increase the echoing.
- The same goes for floorboard, tiles, and concrete floors.
Deliveries and storage
Conducting a fundraising event normally requires a truckload of items. Ensure the venue has enough secure storage that can be accessed before and after the event.
Organise a person at the venue who can be contacted for deliveries and collections. The venue should be able to supply clear instructions on how they manage this aspect.
Many guests will leave the car at home so they can enjoy a drink or kick on after the event. It is a common request from guests to collect their prizes or auction items at another time. Items like these have been known to mysteriously disappear. It is imperative that they are kept safe and secure whilst held at the venue.
Location, parking and public transport
Think of the location as a main draw card to your event. Booking a place that’s in a less popular or remote part of town will be easier on your budget, but the beachside location will be much more enticing for your guests.
You’ll be forgiven if the venue is off the beaten track provided there are transport options available.
Has the venue got private parking for those who drive, if not what parking options are available?
Some guests may prefer to arrive by public transport. How easy will this be? is there a train or bus station close by?
Another popular choice is ride sharing. Uber offers a ‘Sponsorship and Partnership’ program. You can Apply Here to see if you qualify for some ride vouchers.
Organising the catering was far easier in the past. It was acceptable to alternate a meat and chicken dish and expect everyone to tuck in. This is no longer the case and the responsibility will fall squarely on your shoulders to gather your guests’ dietary details for the night.
You can expect orders for gluten free, vegetarian, vegan, and halal. Special dietary requirements and food allergies also need to be managed. Make catering for dietary requirements a priority, not an afterthought. This will result in great feedback and happier attendees.
Your event manager will help you come up with a timing plan for the dinner service. Make sure to understand what the ratio of servers to guests will be and how flexible the plan is.
Beverage packages usually come with two choices, standard or premium. Unless you’re holding an event for beer and wine aficionados, the standard package is usually just fine.
Find out if waiters will serve the tables, or will it be bar only service? Many venues will greet your guests with drinks as they enter, which is always a nice touch.
Your package should also have a good variety of non-alcoholic drinks including tea and coffee.
Main contact and security
Hiccups happen, find out who your main contact will be, it’s also good practice to have a second contact in case they’re not available.
Venues will supply a minimum number of security personnel. I like to introduce myself to them and ask that they liaise with me if they have any concerns. It’s always nice to personally settle any issues if possible.
Don’t be alarmed if the venue looks a little plain during the booking. A few well-placed centrepieces and tableware can make a room shine.
At a minimum, you’ll be given two decoration styles to choose from, formal or casual.
Top Tip: Decorations connected to your cause are never out of place. Ribbons, balloons or paper table covers in your colours are an inexpensive way to add that special touch. Checkout these ideas for some inspiration.
Audio / Visual equipment
Ask any professional speaker what their worst nightmare is. I’ll bet it’s shoddy audio visual equipment that prevents them doing their best job.
Nobody wants their microphone cutting out during an important speech or have trouble sharing information on the screens.
You must make sure the venue’s audio visual equipment is compatible with your devices beforehand. Your event may be severely impacted if you cannot connect with the required cables or the technology is not compatible.
Please ignore the ‘we have all the adaptable cables line’. As technology moves so quickly, venues may provide equipment that is dated. Set-up a time before your event to test compatibility, especially if you are relying on presentations or other visual displays.
More useful checks:
- If you require Wi-Fi, it is crucial to check the speed and connectivity at the venue.
- Can the venue supply the required amount of microphones you need? Is there added costs for multiple microphones? Most importantly, are spare batteries available and at hand if required.
- Are there ample power sockets for your set up? if not, will extension cords and power boards be available?
- What are your options for music, how will the jukebox, DJ or band connect to the audio equipment?
Pro Tip: Ask if one of the staff on hand is an Audio Visual technician or if there is one on call. This will be vital if something goes wrong or is not working.
You may have noticed my focus during this article is to create an atmosphere that is not only comfortable but also engaging for your guests. This is my first aim whenever I’m organising a fundraiser. People will always feel more generous when they’re in a warm inviting atmosphere.
Best of luck with your fundraising.